Weapons crackdown at ‘failing’ youth prison

May 26, 2023


A major crackdown on weapons at a young offenders’ prison has been announced by the government after a review uncovered “unacceptable failings”.

Prisons Minister Damian Hinds outlined a package of urgent measures to improve safety and rehabilitation at HMYOI Cookham Wood, Rochester, Kent, which also includes hiring more staff.

A statement claims that inside a month:

  • Expert teams have been deployed to train staff and improve the care provided to children, ensuring they are rehabilitated, educated, and leave custody with better prospects than when they entered it;
  • A crackdown on weapons will see a dedicated searching team with dogs brought in to seize items fuelling violence in custody;
  • A new intelligence taskforce will also root out and deter children from carrying weapons;
  • The number of young people being kept apart has already reduced, helping avoid any harmful impact on their education and rehabilitation;
  • An improvement notice has been issued to Cookham Wood’s outsourced education provider, requiring them to develop an action plan to resolve issues preventing children in custody from receiving a quality education.

Prisons Minister Damian Hinds said: “Last month’s inspection found unacceptable failings at HMYOI Cookham Wood, and today I am setting out how we will put this right without delay.

“Children should feel safe in custody and leave in a better state than when they entered it.

“These measures to tackle gang violence and improve education will make sure we can rehabilitate these children and reduce their risk of reoffending.”

The prison was built in 1978 alongside an adult prison and while it served as a female jail for many years.

During this time, its most famous inmate was the notorious Moors murderer, Myra Hindley.

In 2007, it became used solely for the use of male young offenders. In recent years it has suffered a poor reputation for violence and serious drug abuse.


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